- North by Northwest
North by Northwest is famous for its famous action sequences such as hanging on Mount Rushmore and the crop duster plane scene. Essentially it is a film of mistaken identity as advertising executive Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is mistaken for George Kaplan by some bad guys in league with a foreign power presumably Russian. The trouble is Kaplan is a made up operative created by the CIA to flush out the film's villain, the urbane but deadly Vandamm (James Mason) and his cronies such as the fey henchman Leonard (Martin Landau) who are out to get Thornhill. Thornhill in order to prove his innocence must evade capture from the bad guys and also the police as he is wanted by everyone. Only a beautiful blonde Eve (Eva-Marie Saint) aids him in this cross country chase but she is more than an innocent bystander as she might be in league with Vandamm. This is an escapist action film that mixes tension with some comedy and Grant was always adept with light comedy. The film is overlong, it just feels 15 minutes too long and the villains motives seems to be rather cloudy.
I hate user/critic review websites strictly because of movies like this. People will go see like, Gran Torino, be entertained, admire a couple symmetrical shots and smooth camera pans or whatever, and rate the thing a 4.5/5, 9/10, 95%, etc. But then there are movies that have a ten minute chase scene with Cary Grant scaling down Mount Rushmore, every second of which you're screaming at the screen. Of course my most pompous entry is for an Alfred Hitchcock. But please, for progeny's sake, save the high ratings for ones that earn em
Sometimes the truth does taste like a mouthful of worms. Roger O Thornhill is a harmless and amiable advertising executive who is absurdly mistaken for a government agent by a gang of ruthless spies. Forced to go out on the lam, Thornhill lurches from one perilous scenario to another. Can he survive to prove his innocence? Is the gorgeous blonde who is helping him really a friend? All will be revealed in Alfred Hitchcock's majestic thriller. If deconstructing it you find that this isn't a perfect Hitchcock movie, for it under uses James Mason's coolly vile Phillip Vandamm (which is a crime), and it also doesn't have a female lead acting with any great urgency since Eva Marie Saint as Eve Kendall fails to fully fulfil the promise of Kendall's arrival in the movie. Yet this film rightly earns the right to be on any critics top 100 list, to be a favourite amongst the legion of Hitchcock fans (of which I'm one of that number), for it is escapist entertainment in its purest form, Hitchcock's most accessible popcorn entertainment piece. From the moment at the film's opening when you hear Bernard Herrmann's wonderful music, it's enough to send goose pimples all over the body. For it is a musical portent that signifies we are about to get a fusion of thrills, mystery, and some cheeky Hitchcock humour, accompanied by heroes and villains all condensed purely for our enjoyment. Fronted by a diamond Cary Grant performance as the man wrongly mistaken for another that leads to him being pursued frighteningly across the states, the pic is never found wanting for genre high points. Coming as it did after the darkly brilliant and soul sapping Vertigo, Hitchcock clearly wanted to hang loose and enjoy himself. Working from a fabulous script by Ernest Lehman, North By Northwest's very reason for being is purely to entertain those wanting to invest a frame of mind with it, with Hitchcock cunningly putting us on side with what is ultimately a shallow character in Grant's Roger O (the O doesn't stand for anything) Thornhill. It's a neat trick from the master of trickery and devilment. Some of the scenes on show are now almost folk lore such is the esteem in which they are held by movie fans and makers alike. A crop dusting aeroplane attack (the prelude to which has those goose pimples popping up in anticipation), a pursuit on Mount Rushmore and the often forgotten drunk car on a cliff sequence, these are all trade mark pieces of work from Hitchcock. North By Northwest is in my humble opinion one of the true greats of cinema history, where as bleak and as unnervingly brilliant as Vertigo was the previous year, this is the polar opposite in structure and fable, but the result is most definitely equally as great. One of the reasons I fell in love with cinema in fact. 10/10